Uttlesford Response Raises More Questions Over Tory Councillor’s Council Tax Affairs

A set of new questions over Cllr Goddard’s non-payment of council tax has arisen since Saffron Walden Labour Party first highlighted the matter, casting further doubt on his future as a council portfolio holder and committee vice-chair at Uttlesford District Council (UDC).

Saffron Walden Labour Party submitted a Freedom of Information request to UDC on 1 March and received a prompt response which indicated that Cllr Goddard had been summonsed for non-payment in the 2017/18 tax year in addition to the non-payment for 2015/16 and 2016/17.

In the light of facts revealed by UDC’s FOI response, we believe that some of Cllr Goddard’s statements to the press lack clarity and contradict information now on public record.

Saffron Walden Labour Party has produced a dossier, including corrections to Private Eye‘s report, questions over Cllr Goddard’s statements to the press and UDC’s FoI response.

Failure to pay council tax can result in a prison sentence of 90 days, which underlines the gravity of the offence. If his personal administrative affairs have been in such a chaotic state over a three-year period, how can voters have confidence in him to carry out his responsibilities as a councillor, particularly in the light of his non-attendance on council business?

Ordinary people are often shamed by councils over prosecution for council tax non-payment. When it comes to Cllr Goddard, it was only the Private Eye investigation that brought the matter to light, not any effort by the council leader to demonstrate transparency and accountability.

Cllr Goddard puts his council tax arrears down to postal and direct debit problems

While £80 court costs are typically charged in such summons, the cost of UDC pursuing the matter in terms of staff time is likely to be more. Councillors persistently going into council tax arrears set a poor example to the community and undermine public faith in the council. Paying council tax is the basic duty of any household. Timely payment is crucial to maintaining our local public services and councillors must set a good example.

UDC leader Cllr Howard Rolfe says the issue of Cllr Goddard’s repeated non-payment of council tax has been concluded through the appropriate channels, suggesting it is no longer a relevant issue. We do not believe this is a sufficient response to repeated failure by a councillor to pay council tax on time. Moreover, we do not have confidence in Cllr Goddard’s ability to hold the sports portfolio and fulfil the duties of vice-chair of the licensing and environmental health committee, two roles that confer authority to the holder.

Labour does not yet have representatives on the district council, so we call on councillors from other parties to debate a vote of no confidence in Cllr Goddard in relation to his council roles.

Government Reforms Must Free Uttlesford To Invest In More Council Housing

Government plans to reform the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) will not resolve the yawning deficit in genuinely affordable housing in Uttlesford, said Saffron Walden Labour Party this week.

Theresa May has pledged to end the abuse of the viability assessment by developers, which has enabled them to negotiate down their affordable housing commitments. This would not be an issue if Uttlesford was not reliant on the goodwill of developers to leverage housing commitments for local need.

Uttlesford needs the power to build more council houses, instead of forever being at the mercy of profiteering developers. Tinkering around the edges of the planning system is far from the change needed to provide sufficient homes for local need.

Daniel Brett, Saffron Walden Labour housing spokesman, said: “Due to massive rises in local housing costs, there are just under 1,000 households on the Uttlesford council housing waiting list. Despite some limited council house building in recent years, the council housing stock still fails to meet the quantity and pattern of demand.

“With the average housing price at 10 times the average salary in Uttlesford, the area is rapidly pushing out local families from the community. ‘Affordable’ housing at 80 per cent of market rates, which is the standard definition, is still out of the reach of many local households. The council can’t meet current demand for social housing, let alone future requirements.

“If the government really wants to address the housing crisis, it should end right-to-buy and relax restrictions on council borrowing for investing in council housing.

“Instead of relying on Section 106 agreements with developers, Uttlesford must be free to borrow the money to build a new generation of council houses that are truly affordable, as recommended by the Treasury Select Committee.

“The benefit of local authority building is to have a long-term plan that would enable Uttlesford to control assets and recoup costs, rather than being always at the mercy of developers who prioritise profits.”

In February, there were 993 households on Uttlesford’s waiting list. Of these, just over 60 per cent require one-bed accommodation with over half of these eligible for accommodation designated for people over 60 whether that be a bungalow or sheltered housing. However, the social housing stock does not match demand with over three-quarters being two- and three-bedroom houses, according to local authority housing data published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government.

Tory Councillor Should Be Stripped Of Position Over Council Tax Issues

Note: Since this article was published, further facts have come to light over a court summons for non-payment in 2017/18 and Cllr Goddard’s comments to the press. Click here for our latest article and here for our dossier on the issue.

Private Eye has revealed that Tory Councillor and Uttlesford cabinet deputy for sport Thom Goddard was taken to court by the council for a second year running for non-payment of council tax in 2016/17.

Following a successful motion by Tory council leader Howard Rolfe to remove Cllr Tina Knight as chair of the Standards Committee over her controversial remarks on the Presidents Club dinner, Saffron Walden Labour Party has called on action against Cllr Goddard.

In 2016, Cllr Thom Goddard (Stansted South & Birchanger) was told to pay £2,548, including costs, when Uttlesford took him to court for non-payment of council tax after he ignored a reminder from UDC. The matter came to light after Private Eye staged an investigation into councillors convicted of council tax non-payment, using Freedom of Information requests to councils throughout the country. Uttlesford Tories appear to have taken no action in response, beyond preventing him from voting on the 2016 council budget. He apologised for a “genuine error.”

On 28 February 2018, he told the Walden Local the error was caused by “a simple mistake while moving bank accounts [which] has not hindered my work for the Council.”

Last month Private Eye‘s latest investigation stated that Cllr Goddard was summonsed again for non-payment of council tax in 2016/17, this time owing £2,637. [Update: On 8 March 2018, the Saffron Walden Reporter reported Cllr Goddard’s claim that he had not received the 2016/17 reminders as his post had been mislaid due to a postcode mix-up. His subsequent moving of bank accounts affected his direct debit, which led to a further “legal notice” in 2017/18. He denies being taken to court, being fined or being barred from voting on the budget.]

Cllr Goddard is deputy cabinet member with responsibility for sport and vice-chair of the licensing and environmental health committee. Despite being a portfolio holder, Cllr Goddard’s attendance record is one of the worst at UDC. Since he was elected in May 2015, he has attended well under half of the meetings he was expected to attend. Between May 2017 and January 2018, he attended just two meetings at UDC out of the nine he was expected to attend.

Council tax non-payment saw 4,800 people in England and Wales summonsed to court with at least 62 jailed in 2016/17. In many cases, legal action by councils has seen people shamed in the local media.

Saffron Walden Labour Party believes it is hypocritical for Cllr Goddard to maintain his portfolio and committee positions. This is a fundamental issue of standards and values and if he does not face the same measures as Cllr Knight, Tory double-standards will erode public confidence in the council.

Legal action taken by UDC over 2015/16 council tax bill. Source: Private Eye
Legal action taken by UDC over 2016/17 council tax bill. Source: Private Eye

Tory NHS cuts will slash local access to specialist care

Residents in Dunmow, Thaxted and surrounding villages could see local specialist care moved to Basildon under new plans.

The proposed Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP), which local health campaigners have dubbed “Slash, Trash, and Privatise”, will see Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford merged with the hospitals in Southend and Basildon.

All three hospitals will be combined into one organisation with one specialist service concentrated at one of the hospitals, most likely Basildon. The proposals come just months after Broomfield Hospital’s A&E department was saved from closure.

Local health campaigners will be protesting outside Waterstones Chelmsford (76 High Street, Chelmsford, CM1 1EJ ) from noon on Saturday against the plans: https://www.facebook.com/events/1977513352574494/

Saffron Walden Labour health spokesperson Kevin Adair said: “The NHS in our area is stretched as never before. And yet the truth is that local services are being cut.

“In the future, if these proposed local hospital merger plans go ahead, patients and their loved ones face travelling long distances with no practical means of public transport.

“Anyone admitted to hospital requiring specialist treatment who lives anywhere in the local area from Chelmsford to Dunmow and Stansted will face the possibility of being transferred from Broomfield Hospital to Basildon. This is totally unacceptable.”

Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford is the nearest hospital for around 40% of the population of Saffron Walden constituency. Its future has a big impact on local health services.

Poor public transport links between Basildon and Dunmow and other parts of Saffron Walden constituency would also make it difficult if not impossible for patients and their relatives to get the specialist care they need.

If specialist emergency care was moved from Broomfield to Basildon, patients in Saffron Walden constituency will have to travel over 20 miles more for treatment. In Dunmow, the distance will be tripled from 11 miles to 33 miles.
Nearest A&E: blue = Broomfield, green = Princess Alexandra, orange = Addenbrookes. Source: NHS Direct

The move has no clinical basis and is driven by the government’s bid to slash £400 million from health budgets over the next few years. The Mid & South Essex STP’s consultation document talks about “closing our financial gap”, “address[ing] the financial challenges”, “to live within our means” and “more economical ways” to deliver local health services.

While Broomfield has been affected by the same A&E crisis seen across the UK, Basildon is adversely affected by Tory cuts with an A&E routinely on ‘black alert’. Campaigners have cast doubt on its ability to cater for additional demand on its services if it became the specialist emergency centre for mid and south Essex.

WALDEN CRIME SOARS 45% IN 2017 – LABOUR ASKS LOCAL MP: WHERE ARE OUR POLICE?

With Saffron Walden’s reported crime soaring 45%, the town’s Labour party spokesman Simon Trimnell has demanded local MP Kemi Badenoch deliver on her promise of more police resources.

Number of crimes per month

In November, Ms Badenoch urged local people to report crime, saying: “the police numbers allocated to us are calculated based on the number of crimes reported. This means that by not reporting crime we are making it more likely that police resources will dwindle even further – and so the vicious cycle continues. The answer? Report every incident, no matter how minor.”

While crime is approaching record levels, the town’s police resources have shrunk to the lowest level ever with no promise of extra cash from the Police and Crime Commissioner. Instead, Uttlesford District Council and Saffron Walden town council are having to stump up the cash to pay for a PCSO, who has fewer powers compared to a normal police officer.

Saffron Walden town council and Uttlesford district council have agreed to pay for a PSCO on a 50/50 basis over two years. The total annual cost of funding a PSCO in the town is £37,652. Labour town councillor Arthur Coote supported funding for the PSCO, but Labour is also demanding additional funds for more policing to stem the crime wave.

Simon Trimnell said: “A PSCO is no replacement for a traditional bobby on the beat and it shouldn’t be up to Uttlesford and the parish council to fund policing, that’s not their role. It is better than nothing, but still a lot less than the level of policing we had years ago.

“Austerity policies are making Saffron Walden more unsafe with fewer police. On the doorstep, we’re hearing more and more reports from residents of burglary and nuisance crime. I’ve lived in the town all my life and I’ve never known it this bad.

“It all comes down to central government policy. Where is Kemi Badenoch? Is she getting more funding for more police in the town now she’s been promoted in the government?

“Labour is promising 10,000 new police officers on the streets of Britain, paid for by reversing cuts to Capital Gains Tax, to return our police service to its former strength. Only then will Saffron Walden stop the rapid rise in crime.”

Saffron Walden Labour Party’s latest crime report has published the following statistics:

  • Overall crime was up 45% in January-November 2017 compared to the same period in 2016
  • Anti-social behaviour represented the largest proportion of reported crime at 29% of the total
  • Violent crime was the second largest contributor at 21%, followed by criminal damage and arson (11%)
  • The rise in crime was caused by a 40.5% rise in ASB, 60.2% rise in violent crime and a 63.0% rise in burglaries

Saffron Walden crime statistics can be viewed here: http://www.ukcrimestats.com/Neighbourhood/1248

Tina Knight Debacle Highlights Need for Cabinet Equalities Post

Saffron Walden Labour Party is calling on Uttlesford leader Howard Rolfe to appoint a Cabinet Member for Equalities to address issues arising from the controversies around Cllr Tina Knight’s comments to Radio 2 on the Presidents Club.

Said Alexandra Routledge, Saffron Walden Labour Party’s Women’s Officer: “Many members of the public were rightly upset by Cllr Knight’s comments and we are pleased there is cross-party determination, both nationally and locally, to confront abusive behaviour towards women. Condemnation of one person’s misguided statement is not enough. We need to tackle harassment and abuse of women and the attitudes that are contributing to the problem.

“Saffron Walden Labour party believes we all need to take ownership of these problems and create practical solutions. A member of cabinet dedicated to equalities issues can help promote standards in public life and inclusiveness in policy-making.

“Many councils have created this portfolio and it has helped in their role as service providers and employers as well as improving the overall quality of local debate.”

On 29 January, UDC published its latest guidance on equalities, covering discrimination based on sex, age, disability, race, religion, sexual orientation and other matters. This is an obligation on the council under the Equalities Act 2010, which seeks to strengthen the laws preventing discrimination and the inequalities that still exist in society today.

The council is required to conduct equality impact assessments and implement equality policies. An Equalities cabinet portfolio would help put this strategy into practice.

Walden MP’s Tweet Supporting Scandal-Hit Tory “Inexcusable”

Saffron Walden Labour Women’s Officer Ally Routledge responds to local MP’s appointment as a vice-chair of the Tory party after defending Toby Young’s controversial tweets:

“It is inexcusable that the first woman MP for Saffron Walden would go out of their way to defend the comments made by Toby Young.

“Recently, we have seen women speak up about sexual harassment in politics and Mr Young’s comments on women MPs at Prime Minister’s Questions were inappropriate and highlight the problem with misogyny in politics.

“The resignation of Toby Young is welcome but he was not fit for the role of the Chair of the Office for Students in the first place.

“Kemi’s new role as Vice Chair of the Conservative Party for Candidates means that she will have significant power in selecting the next generation of Tory candidates. I hope she applies higher standards to make politics more diverse and welcoming for women than she has with her comments regarding Toby Young.”

Local Tories in Disarray Over Police Cuts

Local Conservatives are in complete disarray over policing as police numbers are slashed, police stations are closed and crime soars.

At a local residents meeting with the Essex Police and Crime Commissioner, held at Saffron Walden Town Hall on Monday, Tory infighting broke out as internal party tensions came to the fore.

After the meeting, local Labour activist Simon Trimnell said: “It is quite clear to me that the local Conservative party is in complete disarray. The police and crime commissioner Roger Hurst, a Conservative, blames lack of police in Saffron Walden on Conservative central government cuts while local Conservative councillors are blaming him. Meanwhile, Saffron Walden’s Conservative MP is demanding we all report more crime to get more police.”

Essex crime rates in September and August this year were the worst and second worst months, respectively, since 2010, according to the latest crime statistics. In Saffron Walden, reported crime rose 37% in January-September compared to the same period in 2016. Violent offences rose 49% while anti-social behaviour grew 39%, accounting for 20% and 30% of total reported crime, respectively.

Saffron Walden is one of the communities targeted for cuts under the Tories as Essex reduces the number of police stations in the county from 80 to 30 in a bid to save the force £63 million between 2017 and 2020.

Local MP Kemi Badenoch Fails to Make the Grade

Local MP Kemi Badenoch fails to make the grade in an end-of-year report by Saffron Walden Labour Party.

Constituents have complained to local Labour activists that she is failing to pay attention to their concerns. Response times to letters have been one area of concern with many claiming it can take weeks for a response.

Many are shocked by the answers they receive, which appear to have been plagiarised from other MPs’ statements. Responses to letters on the UN’s criticism of the government’s treatment of disabled people were identical to a letter Home Secretary Amber Rudd MP issued on her website (https://www.amberrudd.co.uk/disability-rights-violations). Local residents also received letters in response to concerns over universal credit that were very similar to a statement made by Conservative MP Graham Stuart on his website (https://www.grahamstuart.com/campaign-responses/universal-credit/). See attachments.

Saffron Walden CLP Chair Bill McCarthy said: “Constituents have been used to Alan Haselhurst’s prompt and individual responses, even if they disagreed with him.

“While she has grand ambitions, our MP isn’t prepared to do her own homework and instead plagiarises her colleagues. It’s poor form and she doesn’t make the grade.

“According to the press, she isn’t even willing to make the constituency her permanent family home. Many are wondering whether she’s taking local people seriously.”

Best Result for 47 Years as Labour come 2nd in Saffron Walden

Labour made history in Saffron Walden, gaining 2nd place for the first in 47 years, and with the highest number of votes ever.
Labour’s candidate Jane Berney, almost doubled her vote from her 2015 campaign, and established Labour as the opposition in the Constituency, and with further polls showing an additional 8% increase in support for Labour nationally and yet another substantial increase in membership of the Party all since polling day.
Labour are now confident in making further in-roads into the Conservative heartland in Essex, with another possible General Election looming due to the Governments loss of their overall majority.
Jane Berney called upon the newly elected MP Kemi Badenock to apply whatever pressure she can on the Prime Minister to take a collaborative approach to Brexit Negotiations, and to forget about working with the DUP to keep their very slim majority in the Commons, as this would invalidate the Good Friday Agreement to be impartial, and put the Northern Ireland Peace Process at risk. Jane Berney urged Mrs Badenoch and Mrs May to put the good of the Country above personal and Party interests.

General Election 2017: Saffron Walden

Conservative
Kemi Badenoch 37,629 61.8%
Labour
Jane Berney 12,663 20.8%
Liberal Democrat
Mike Hibbs 8,528 14.0%
UKIP
Lorna Howe 2,091 3.4%

Majority 24,966
Turnout
60,911
Conservative hold
Swing
2.2% To Labour